Still a Man’s World

The United Nations Development Programme recently published its 2023 edition of the Gender Social Norms Index (GSNI). The GSNI draws upon data from 80 countries and territories, covering 85 percent of the global population. (

The Index quantifies biases against women, capturing people’s attitudes on women’s roles along four key dimensions: political, educational, economic and physical integrity – to highlight areas where women and girls face systematic disadvantages and discrimination. Each dimension is characterized by one or two indicators of biases against women. For example, the economic dimension has two indicators: one measuring whether people think “men should have more right to a job than women” and the other whether people think “men make better business executives than women do.”

By objective measures, women are underrepresented in politics, public administration and business leadership. Only 11 percent of heads of state and 9 percent of heads of government are women, and women hold only 22 percent of ministerial posts. In the paid economy women hold only 28 percent of managerial positions.

The share of chief executive officers (CEOs) in US Fortune 500 companies who are women reached an all-time high of 10 percent in 2023. In Stoxx Europe 600 companies, women account for 16 percent of CEOs and 33 percent of nonexecutive directors.

The Index reveals that almost half (49%) of the world’s population think that men make better political leaders than women do, and 43 percent think that men make better business executives than women do.

Overall, 61% of the world’s people share political bias against women, 60% have economic bias, 28% have educational bias and 75% share bias on issues regarding women’s physical integrity (with 58% being biased against women’s reproductive rights).

84.6% of individuals around the world have at least one bias against women. By gender, 86.5% of the men and 83% of the women are biased against women.

Around the world, 57.3% of women share political bias against women, almost 25% of them have educational bias, 54.5% have economic bias and 73.4% share bias regarding physical integrity. These unsettling figures show how deeply women have internalized the misogynistic social norms.

Gender norms are inculcated in social settings, usually from an early age and especially through parental attitudes. As children grow up, they are socialized into the gender norms, expectations and associated behaviours that surround them, drawing from schools, workplaces, religious institutions, media representations of gender and so on.

Even in highly advanced democracies we still see significant minorities of women who have internalized the social norms that are hostile to women.

For instance, 23% of women in New Zealand, 26.5% of women in Sweden, 27.1% of women in the United Kingdom, 27.2% of women in the Netherlands, 29% of women in Australia, 33 % of women in Germany, 34% of women in Canada, 49.2% of women in Spain and 50.6% of women in the United States have at least one bias against women.

There are people saying that, today, feminism has gone too far – or at least that feminism is no longer necessary, since the movement already accomplished its goals. However, the figures in the GSNI 2023 prove them wrong. They prove that today’s world is still very much a man’s world.